Many children go through phases of being shy. It may be once they are old enough to discern strangers from family, or it may be when they enter school and begin to spend more time away from home. And while shyness is not uncommon, parents should be aware that if your teen is experiencing a strong aversion to social situations, it may be something more than just feeling a little shy. 

Social Anxiety and Autism

Social anxiety is a common type of anxiety disorder. Teens struggling with social anxiety may feel symptoms of anxiety or fear in certain or all social situations, such as meeting new people, interviewing for a job, or answering questions in class. Some symptoms of social anxiety may be worrying about an event for weeks in advance, avoiding eye contact, feeling afraid that others are judging them, or even physical symptoms such as nausea, sweating, and an elevated heart rate.

Many teens on the autism spectrum may avoid eye contact, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are struggling with social anxiety. This is why it is important to be aware of other signs and symptoms. Teens on the spectrum may have difficulty understanding body language or tone of voice in social situations. These difficulties may lead to them feeling a level of anxiety around these interactions. If they remember how stressful it was last time to meet a new person, they may want to avoid meeting new people in the future to avoid that stress. 

How to Work Through Social Anxiety

Identifying their triggers is an important part of dealing with social anxiety. Maybe your teen does well one on one, but when they are in a loud group with multiple people talking, they begin to feel overwhelmed. Once you have identified which situations are potentially triggering for your teen, you can help them practice what to when those situations occur. For example, if that group interaction is overwhelming, you can have them practice asking for people to slow down and speak one at a time. If they feel overstimulated by being physically close to a group of people, they can practice asking for some personal space. Acting out these social interactions at home gives them the confidence to use these new coping skills in real-world situations. 

Coping skills can also include, knowing when to take a break and practicing healthy self-soothing techniques. Maybe they use a weighted blanket to help de-stimulate themselves, or they can practice deep breathing to feel more grounded. Knowing how to use these skills and when to ask for help is crucial to relieving anxiety. 

Teens on the spectrum who are dealing with social anxiety can also benefit from professional help. Working with a mental health clinician can help your teen identify their negative behavior patterns and create a treatment plan to replace these behaviors with positive ones. A residential treatment program can help these teens build success instead of living in fear. By focusing on the positives, these programs create a hands-on learning environment built to succeed.

Discover Seven Stars Can Help

Adolescence can present many challenges for teens who are falling behind their peers due to the neurological and developmental lags associated with ASD and ADHD. Seven Stars is one of the nation’s premier residential treatment centers for teens with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. Whether diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental disorder to date or not, Seven Stars’ students are those who struggle socially, emotionally, and academically.

Seven Stars’ treatment model is a revolutionary hybrid. By combining the assessment aspects of a multidisciplinary assessment center, the experiential learning of an adventure program, and the therapy and classroom academics of residential treatment, our program provides a very comprehensive solution for teens struggling with neurodevelopmental disorders. For more information please call (844) 601-1167.